With more than 6 Lakh of our population residing in villages, the maximum extent to which most pan out is that of being awe-inspired by their beauty and untouched landscape, from afar. With each village different from the other, here is a list of the hidden gems that serve as every architect’s dream.
Intensely absorbed in the doings of our cities, the busy lifestyle, the wrecked streets, the tall edifices of steel and concrete enveloping us; the city folks are sorrowfully unaware of all the hidden gems around them. With more than 6 Lakh of our population residing in villages, the maximum extent to which most pan out is that of being awe-inspired by their beauty and untouched landscape, from afar. Only those who have trodden upon these blissfully masked gems of our country recognize the plethora of knowledge these villages hold for us. Erroneously termed as ‘primitive’, the planning, techniques and problem-solving nature of their architecture are the assets that the city architects need to latch on to, merrily.
With each village different from the other, here is a list of the hidden gems that serve as every architect’s dream.
Cradled in the arms of the Himalayas, the Chitkul village lies in the Baspa valley of the Kinnaur district. While Chhitkul has a lot to offer- with its rich culture, exceptional scenery and a unique, hassle-free experience- it is bound to raise a particular interest among architects with its Kathkuni architecture and coping mechanism against the six-month excessive snowfall that brings this beautiful village to a pause. Home to the magnificent Mathi Devi temple, this is the hidden gem to pursue, for intricate woodwork, exquisite vernacular architecture; and to understand a style of architecture that can be assembled and dismantled with utmost ease and grace.
2. NONGRIAT, MEGHALAYA
Hidden safely in the ‘abode of clouds’- Meghalaya- Nongriat is a proud owner of Umshiang, the double-decker root bridge. Proving itself to be a hidden gem, this village locks itself from the public eye, behind a multitude of dense trees, waterfalls and other scenic beauties. The root bridges are bound to leave everyone puzzled yet amazed at the magic of nature. Particularly enticing for an architect, a root bridge has a lot to offer through its technique of using the roots of Rubber trees. The most intriguing detail of this is that each member of the Khasi tribe is well versed in this art that most city architects are, to this date, unable to capture.
3. RAMGARH, RAJASTHAN
Established by the merchant community of the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, the village of Ramgarh is home to a multitude of glorious, painted Havelis with exclusive timber work with metal decorated joinery. Once holding its place in the list of the wealthiest villages of India, it is an exhibit for the beautiful, ornate temples, Havelis and cenotaphs of that time. While the attractions call out more to architects and conservationists, the village’s dying condition and culture present itself as a cry for help, making it even more important for architects to flock this area and give it their two cents.
4. BISHNUPUR, KOLKATA
A newly converted census town in Kolkata, Bishnupur is a village widely known but hardly recognized. Home to a highly detailed and intricate knowledge of terracotta construction, it proudly flaunts its extensively embellished temples. The laterite clay techniques, molded decorations and carvings are to vouch for. Furthermore, the paths leading to these temples are ornately decorated with landscaping techniques that make the otherwise hot area extremely cool, creating a beautiful experience. A must-visit for everyone, it is bound to tickle the heart of an architect.
5. RAGHURAJPUR, ORISSA
Known as the crafts village of Orissa, Raghurajpur is the home to India’s rarest art and craft. While the beautiful town has less to offer in terms of built intricacy or landmarks, it makes up for it with the interesting and one of a kind usage of its mural paintings. As one moves around the village, there will not be one structure without a peculiar image of its own. Each façade is painted with vivid murals depicting different stories.
6. GUDA BISHNOIYAN RAIKAN, JODHPUR
The original creators of the Chipko movement, this village respects and loves animals and their nature as its own; considering them not lesser than their children. With their love for animals being one of the only binding qualities of the village, Bishnoi is the location to witness, firsthand, the evolution of building materials and its effects. The Raika tribe of the village can still be seen living in houses made of mud, cow dung and their traditional stone; showcasing exclusive vernacular talent. On the other hand, the rest of the tribes and merchants have had houses built with bricks and concrete. With each type of living bringing its challenges, this village is a great place for architects to study and be sensitized towards material changes while enjoying the beautiful, untouched attractions of this ancient gem.
7. GARLI, KANGRA DISTRICT
Located in the heart of the Kangra district, Garli, a small hamlet, is a treasure trove of heritage buildings. Certified as a heritage village by the state government in 1997, it is an ornamental village with massive Havelis, cobblestone trees, houses resembling forts and its villas. A beautiful mix of all styles of architecture, from Anglo-Indian and Portuguese to Islamic and Italian, the village has managed to preserve itself beautifully, without losing on to its old age charisma.
8. JAGESHWAR, UTTARAKHAND
A Hindu pilgrimage town and one of the Dhams in the Shaivism tradition, Jageshwar is a temple cluster village, housing over 200 temples built from cut stone. With limited studies and research on it, owing to its remote location, the village is very well hidden from the evil eye of ‘city like commercialization’. While, despite all its glory, it does not hold a place in the most magnificent temple towns of India, it is a treat for the ones who manage to tread upon this gem, nevertheless; with its curvilinear shikhara, amalakas, crowns and metal details in temples, just as intricately designed.
9. HODKA, GUJRAT
Located in the Kutch district, the Hodka village is believed to be the ancestral home of the Halepotra clan, who lived here 300 years ago. While the culture, traditions and crafts in itself are enough to grab the attention of any tourist, the structure and patterns of the houses are bound to leave one dumbfounded. A naturally sweltering area throughout the year, the construction of the mud houses it such that the interiors are always lovely and relaxed, even without fans or extra ventilation systems. The usage of dung and natural dyes in earthy tones are features that add to the coolness of the houses, both inside and outside.
10. DISKIT, LADAKH
While more than enough has already been said about the Nubra valley of Ladakh, the Diskit village is a small offbeat village in this very valley with its glory blissfully masked. Sharing picturesque views of the snow-clad mountains with its paths, it has a lot to offer with its landscape and its location. Adding to it all, it is home to one of the largest and oldest Buddhist Monasteries, the Diskit Gompa. This monastery in compilation with the unique settlements makes the village a must for architects who wish to understand the concept of imageability and wayfinding in a village.